Friday, May 20, 2016

In the News: Hoodline

Faith-Based Meetup Distributes PB&Js To The Castro's Hungry

“We can’t cure homelessness,” said Pastor Megan Rohrer. “But we can still be present and be visible out in our community. That was a big part of why we wanted to start having these gatherings.”

Rohrer helps to organize the San Francisco Faithful LGBTQ Meetup. The group comes together weekly for everything from bison walks in Golden Gate Park to wine tastings to wonton-making demos. But its most visible contribution is on Sunday afternoons, when members make 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and distribute them to the Castro’s homeless. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to wear matching T-shirts, to let people know that people of faith are LGBT, and that we can be doing good things,” said Rohrer, who was the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church. Rohrer has been an advocate for homeless LGBT San Franciscans for more than 15 years.

“We really wanted to make it a safe space for anybody of any faith to do good work,” said James Rowley, who co-organizes the Meetup with Rohrer. Within a few days of creating the group, over 75 people had signed up; about 12 people turn out for any given meeting. 

The group decided to distribute PB&J "because it’s nutritious, it doesn’t spoil, and we can give [the homeless] two or three of them and leave them with them, whether they’re sleeping on the side of the street or we have a conversation with them.”

The nutrition is particularly important for homeless people who are HIV-positive. "They need protein, and a lot of the ways that they can get really sick is if their muscles kind waste away,” Rohrer said. “We wanted to make sure that there was a lot of protein, but also to respect the crunchy lesbians who also wanted something vegan.”

The group gets most of its supplies—bread, peanut butter, jelly, sandwich bags, hand wipes—from Grace, although the Meetup is not affiliated with the congregation. “It’s not costly, peanut butter and jelly,” Rohrer said.

The Meetup group gathers inside St. Francis Church, located right across from the Safeway on Market Street, on Sunday afternoons. “We walk up from the Safeway at Church Sr. and then we go all the way down to Castro and 18th. By then we’re usually out of sandwiches,” Rohrer said.

"That neighborhood has more homeless people than other parts of town, because San Francisco figures out how they’re going to divide up homeless services based on police districts," Rohrer said. “The neighborhood that gets the most complaints on the non-emergency police number gets the most homeless resources for that month.”

“The reason why we start at Church Street is because that’s the dividing line between four different police districts. A lot of people gather in that neighborhood because instead of getting pushed along too far, [police will] say, ‘Cross the street, that’s the other police district, and then they’ll have to deal with you.’”

Rohrer and Rowley say this area also attracts a lot of LGBT homeless people, who want to be near the company and safety of fellow LGBT individuals. 

However, not every sandwich is given to the homeless. If the group gets to 18th Street and still has sandwiches, they head to Dolores Park. According to Rowley, mothers with fussy children have stopped members of the group and asked for a sandwich. “We’ve stopped a couple of tantrums at 4 in the afternoon,” said Rohrer, laughing. 

“The whole event is two hours: an hour to make [the sandwiches], an hour to give [them] out to people, and then we spend an hour having a drink together at Harvey’s,” Rowley said. “We’re not preachy.”

Rohrer is no stranger to the neighborhood’s homeless population. The transgender pastor goes out from 10pm to 4am with other local pastors about three times a month, as part of the city’s night ministries. “When I go out, I usually walk through the Castro, so I know a lot of their names and their stories and what they look like when they’re not wanting to be talked to. So I usually can give a little heads-up.” 

“With all the hate-filled rhetoric that’s happening in our world right now,” Rohrer said, “it feels good to have a positive outlet. What I’ve noticed working with the homeless in San Francisco is that whenever there’s homophobia or transphobia in other parts of the country, we get more LGBT homeless folk in San Francisco. They think 'At least they won’t discriminate against me there, even if I can’t afford the housing.'"

“We’re trying to think of ways, particularly as people of faith, that if there are people that get kicked out of their homes or churches that are not being supportive of LGBT folks in other parts of the country, ways that we can care for our community and make it so that they don’t have to get to the rock-bottom lowest space before they’re able to figure out their housing situation,” Rohrer said.  
Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline
If you’re around the neighborhood on Sunday afternoons between 2-4pm and you see a group of people passing out sandwiches and wearing blue t-shirts that say “Live Generously” on them, don’t be confused. The Meetup is always looking for new members.

“We’re trying to get other people involved,” Rowley said, “to get together, go out to Harvey’s afterwards, and have a good time.”

“It’s fun to be in the Castro and just kind of hang out,” said Rohrer. “It’s something that we can do that’s portable, that’s gonna help people, and that’s not gonna get people in trouble.”

The San Francisco Faithful LGBTQ Meetup's next peanut butter and jelly gathering will be this Sunday, May 22nd. Check out the group's Meetup page for a list of events.

Monday, May 16, 2016

In the News: Impact Magazine

First-Ever LGBTQ Religious Children’s Books Now Available!

Rohrer, Faithful Families - 400 px
A page from “Faithful Families”
LGBTQ-affirming religious books for kids are available for the first time ever with the launch of the Good News Children’s Book Series this spring.
Books such as “Faithful Families” remind children that God loves them, no matter what their family looks like — even if they have two mommies or two daddies.
Mr. Grumpy Christian” is for LGBTQ families to read if they hear Christians telling them that God cannot love them.
Transgender Children of God” affirms transgender parents and children by declaring that God will love us no matter what we wear, who we love or how we identify.
What to Wear to Church” was written with transgender children in mind, while the gender diversity of God’s creation is affirmed in “Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?”
The books are published by Wilgefortis Press as a project of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco. All nine books in the series so far are written byMegan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church.
Megan Rohrer
Megan Rohrer
Not every book in the series specifically addresses LGBTQ themes, but each one is promoted as “a safe book for reconciling churches and diverse families.”
Aimed at children from pre-school up to age 12, each book expresses God’s all-inclusive love with simple language and beautiful pictures by a variety of illustrators.
“My thought with these books is that as a collection they could help kids know that they are loved no matter what they wear, who they love and no matter what others tell them about it,” Rohrer told the Jesus in Love Blog.
The books grew naturally out of the ministry at Grace Lutheran. “A longtime welcoming congregation located in San Francisco, with a transgender pastor, we knew that our children’s books had the ability to be full of the grace that our congregation was named after,” Rohrer explained.
The first nine books were published quickly in February and March so they would be ready to use as prizes for the congregation’s Easter Egg Hunt.
“The children who received them over Easter were really excited and loved getting something they could take home with them from the service,” Rohrer said.
The books delighted adults in the church too. “Many wished they had books like this when they were younger,” Rohrer said.
Faithful Families” was inspired by the many families and children at the church’s Grace Infant Child Care Center. Rohrer co-wrote it with Pamela Ryan, director of the center for more than 30 years. It is illustrated by Ihnatovich Maryia and aimed at children up to 8 years old.
Rohrer wrote “Mr. Grumpy Christian” after meeting a 7-year old-boy who tried to kill himself because a pastor threatened him with hell. It is suitable for LGBTQ families who face hostility from other Christians. Children ages 5 to 10 are the target audience. The rhyming book affirms:
When a grumpy Christian ruins your day,
Remember God’s love is here to stay.
In the true spirit of Christ, the book goes on to add, “But remember that God’s love extends to grumpy Christians too.”
What to Wear to Church” reminds children that God will always love them no matter what clothes they wear. The illustrations were designed from a photo of Rohrer’s real-life grandmother, who inspired the story.
“‘What to Wear to Church’ is a short book for toddlers that I imagine my grandma reading to me if she knew I was going to grow up to be transgender,” Rohrer said. It is illustrated by Daren Drda.
Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?” is one of the series’ most popular books with children. Pictures of animals illustrate the point that God’s creation includes many kinds of gender expression.  It is geared to children up to 8 years old. After exploring everything from koalas and penguins to banana slugs, the book concludes:
But, no matter your favorite color,
what your body looks like,
if you have a baby or not,
if you are in charge,
if you are a girl, boy, both or do not know,
or how any of these things change in the future,
God will love you no matter what.
And so will I.
Others in the series of Good News Children’s Books include “Church Bugs,” “Jesus’ Family,” “The Parable of the Succulent” and “The Children’s Crumbs.”
“We even have a book on the Holocaust that has some of my favorite illustrations of the series,” Rohrer said. “Never Again” was inspired by Rohrer’s wife Laurel, whose relatives who were killed in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Illustrations are by Eugene Ivanov.
Wilgefortis Press works with a variety of artists to illustrate the Good News Children’s Books. “We gave the artists the story and creative license to illustrate,” Rohrer explained.
Rohrer received a master of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and is currently a candidate for the doctorate of ministry degree there. Rohrer created Wilgefortis Press to publish books about queer, disability and poverty issues. Other books by Rohrer include “Queerly Lutheran” and “Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.”
Rohrer was an art major at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD before switching to religion. That artistic training will be put to use when Rohrer serves as both writer and illustrator of the next book in the series. It addresses how hard it is to come to church for the first time by telling the story of a dog coming to church.
The Good News Children’s Books are published as both ebooks and paperbacks, and are available on (see links below for quick ordering). Discounts on paperbacks ordered directly from the church are available by contacting

This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.
Cherry-KittredgeKITTREDGE CHERRY is a lesbian Christian author who writes regularly about LGBT spirituality and the arts for the Jesus in Love Blog. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer, advocating for LGBT rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. She holds degrees in religion, journalism and art history. Her most recent book is The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.  (Read IMPACT’s review of her book here).